AMC 2010 Coverage: Starbucks CEO on the Importance of Social Media

Howard Schultz delivers an inspiring keynote and highlights social media as a huge key to the company’s success

Starbucks is the #1 brand on Facebook, with nearly 14 million connections. They have over 1 million followers on Twitter and over 5 million subscribers on YouTube.

Schultz says social media is all about a sense of discovery and sharing. Sharing is the lowest common denominator and the next piece is about trust, which is social media’s most important component. Social media is a way for organizations to be fully transparent and allow customers to really get behind the mission of the organization.

The magic of all, says Schutlz, is the emotion of sharing. When your customers see a post on Facebook or Twitter and they get that “overwhelming sense of really wanting to share with a friend”, that’s the essence of what social media helps elicit.

He admits social media is almost like the gold rush, where there is still lots of noise, and lots of things that don’t matter. He acknowledged that as publishers we probably won’t be able to sell subscriptions via social media. But if a company has something to say that people will want to share, that people feel an emotional connection to, this is what will help build brand affinity, a goal we all share.

He also warned that you can’t police social media too heavily, you must simply embrace it. It has to be a significant investment in your company. The truth is that it’s here to stay. For Starbucks specifically, with 200K employees at an average age of 25, social and digital media was about making their people proud and highlighting the authenticity of what the company stands for. Getting employees to understand that they work for a company that’s innovative, that they should be proud of, has also been a key to their success.

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Starbucks digital network

In partnership with Yahoo!, Starbucks will soon be offering free access to a collection of premium content that’s locally relevant and delivers news, entertainment and more. It’ll be available only at Starbucks, where customers can enjoy content from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USAToday, as well as iTunes, Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Zagat. So yes, WSJ online premium content will be free to Starbucks customers.

Schultz recognizes that innovation is disruptive, having the courage to do that which no one has done before. This network will create for the first time a physical place for a digital network. It’ll also be optimized for mobility for cell phones. So when you get to Starbucks and turn the computer on, you can go right to network.

Schultz says this plan demonstrates that they are pushing for reinvention. He expects the relevancy of this network to be very high, while noting that users will have the chance to opt out of the network if they prefer.

Social media NOT a catalyst for turning a company around

Schultz says that the way his company has integrated marketing and new products with regards to social media has certainly given them an advantage, but warns that social media alone is not a catalyst for turning a company around.

Instead, it’s about adding value that is consistent to a company’s heritage and doing what no other company can do. He advised to allow no one in the company to be a bystander. “We must all take it personally and be held accountable. A collective effort of everything that’s at stake is critical, as is the need to change human behavior and accountability,” said Schultz.

For more coverage of AMC 2010:

AMC 2010 Coverage: What Publishers can Learn from Facebook

AMC 2010 Coverage: From the Page to the iPad

AMC-IMAG 2010 Coverage: Lessons in Paid Content from Consumer Reports


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